Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A review of A Dull Roar by Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins, A Dull Roar is another journal of his life depicting events and moods in the spring and summer in 2006. The first half deals with his experiences getting his band back together & then hired and working on a film in Vancouver. After each entry is a short list of what Mr. Rollins ate and drank. The book like a life has a few themes, the first the movie and the second, the last tour with The Rollins Band. As with most of Rollins’ works I felt his pain as he honestly deals with depression and a constant struggle to maintain an internal and physical strength. The mind is a powerful weapon and Henry is - as he declares - is,” The Spear.”
If there is any question as to what makes this man tick, here as with most of his writing is an open door into the mind of Rollins. His themes revolve around an obsessive work habit, his experiences in his old band Black Flag, to his self induced isolation since he has little patience for anyone other than a few key players. In an amusing sidebar, Jeannie Garoafalo appears, she insists that Henry will paint her apartment next time he is in New York. The Rollins Band themselves is an assortment of characters, and yet throughout I felt there was a murky distance between Rollins and the players. He does not go into detail about what they’ve done since the last time they were together which was close to ten years. Doesn’t share if they married and had children, a little report would be satisfactory. I was left wondering what or who the other member were, but reading Rollins you need to prepare yourself since he writes about what he assumes the reader will find enlightening - himself and has little regard for others except for the writers, Wolfe and Fitzgerald. He’s obsessed with Tender Is the Night, and declares it’s his favorite book; I started reading it last night and was surprised by the flowery writing compared to Henry Miller who is another one of his favorites or some other French poets.
Other notable passages are when he goes back to his childhood in DC, and how important it is for him to get back at least once a year. There is a good scene when he hangs out with his long time friend Ian MacKaye. There are other scenes of meeting fans outside his bus and of course his discipline preparing for each performance.
I’m looking forward to reading more of his works, I appreciate his blunt and honest depictions, what’s intriguing is his passion for knowledge, his love of music is contagious, and yet I would always give the man his space to discover his demons.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rise Above to save Coltrane's house




http://thecoltranehome.org/letters/national-trust-for-historic-preservation

Monday 3 21 11
The John Coltrane house is in bad shape. The chimney and cap are in disrepair and the roof shingles in the back are bucking, which I’m sure has led to some leaks in the house. The back brick wall is cracked and the rear needs major renovation. As I stood outside the house this past Saturday I felt ashamed that the house was in such poor shape.
This was his last home and a landmark for the place where he composed A Love Supreme, one of the masterpieces in jazz. Research states Mr. Coltrane composed it upstairs in his study for days and only interrupted for meals. When it was finished he came downstairs and told his wife, Alice, “It is done.”
While writing a paper on Coltrane for college, I learned he lived in Dix Hills and is buried in Pine lawn cemetery. He passed at Huntington Hospital, the same hospital where his sons were born. Searching the internet there were a few articles I came across, and eventually came in contact with Steve Fulgoni who led a campaign to save the house from demolition. I had the pleasure to meet Steve at the Coltrane house and was given a tour inside. At the time, there were new doors installed and an alarm system, windows were fixed, and inside the living room pictures of how the house appeared when Alice and her children lived there in the early seventies.
The house was purchased by the town back in 2004. This is where my piece ends, since I have little details about the not-for-profit which raised funds to rebuild the house. I sent a letter asking Steve what progress has been made. Since Saturday there has been no response. At one time, there was a web site which depicted the work to save the house, articles in Newsday, News12, and letters from jazz musicians. Today, there is a blog, but little details since 2008.
Through meeting Steve, I was invited to attend the Alice Coltrane memorial at St. John Divine cathedral in New York. I’ll never forget seeing Ravi Coltrane, John’s second oldest son and an incredible saxophone player, sitting at the end of our aisle and crying when a short documentary was played of his mother. And at the end of the memorial standing near the alter and hugging or shaking hands to everyone who passed their condolences. I spoke to Michelle Coltrane, who was the oldest and remembered her step father smoking a pipe and playing with the kids. She had fond memories of the house. I also had the chance to meet and interview Rachied Ali, one of John’s drummers who passed last year.
So join me as I investigate what happened to saving the Coltrane house. Today, my goal is calling the town to learn who is in charge of the repairs. Maybe I’ll shoot off an email to Ravi, since I recall he was on the board of the non-for-profit.
Later I called Steve who received my email, money is the issue. The big investors need to see a professional restoration plan, which costs money to generate. We discussed the proposed plans, like concerts, but they cost money to generate. Have they reached out to Bill Cosby? No.
So I’d take up the challenge and push it to fruition. There are many good angels that Coltrane continues to bless.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Henry Rollins is 50 & back in Harrisburg & Philly


It’s not common for my brother and me to hang out. Last Thursday was one of the rarities, we planned on seeing Henry Rollins in Philadelphia, but the show was sold out. I bought a ticket, before speaking to Dave, since I never know his plans. Also, let’s be honest, how many times have we bought that extra ticket for whom ever and it’s a bust. Anyway, I bought two tickets for his show in Harrisburg, PA. This was the first show back in the US on a shortened spoken word tour to celebrate his 50th birthday. After close to two hours on 76 heading west we arrived in Harrisburg. We passed the Howard Johnson’s on 83, where I stayed with Ali and the girls (don’t think Joe or Bella have been there) when we visited Hershey Park all of those years ago.
Harrisburg is a neat little town, some cool bars on the Main Street that we gearing up for St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a diverse town as well, since for the few hours we were in there, there was a decent mix of gay, African American, poor and rich, but most of the crowd at the venue were hipsters. I loved the fact there were a lot of young men and women, who beamed with an odd excitement for the appearance of the uncle of punk Henry Rollins.
The rapid two hour show was fantastic as Henry began with an apology; after all of these years of spoken word performances, this was his first show in the city. He described how he did not intentionally ignore Harrisburg. In fact Black Flag performed in the city a few times and he brought up some old haunts. He also described getting there the day before cause he wants to be prepared, visiting the local YMCA and coming in contact with drunks in the afternoon. ‘As if getting drunk in the afternoon is truly- taking it to the man!”
Mr. Rollins touched on the shows at Joe’s Pub in New York which started off the tour, and described walking up town in New York into a fierce headwind and coming across a man on the sidewalk hawking fur coats, “Get yar fur coats here! You know you want one!” Mr. Rollins has an incredible ability to mimic, but he is conscientious enough to know he should not mimic everyone in case he sounded xenophobic - as was his reason not to share a mimic of a North Korean performer.
And that is essentially the show, his travels to China, Beijing and the thick pollution and how he pretends to lick off the pollution off his fingers. Off to North Korea and his escapes to allude to truth to his ever present tour guards that he is a journalist. Off to Vietnam and his hysterical tour guide, Kong. “Can I call you Mr. Kong?” The man replied, “You can call me Mister, you can call me Kong, as long as you don’t call me late for dinner.” I will add, "John McCain is an angry man." See the show and you'd get the joke.
Henry’s story of his first ever visit to the local Cosco with Heidi his official office staff, is worth the ticket. He shares his disdain for our large American diet on fast food, our cells dying as they cling for life, but the best was when he came to the literature section and finding mostly conservative books, “Hannity, Palin, Bush. “ This led to reading President Bush’s Decision Points out loud. He said it was written by ghost writers, “Not the ghosts of the thousands of troops killed or innocent Iraqi citizens…” The master at mimic was at full force. He had an audience of one who laughed out loud and from another (who was offended) a stare that tried to shut him up, Rollins glared him down and recited out loud…the other eventually huffed off defeated.

**Let me add something, his story when he confronted Dennis Hopper had me on the floor**

Closing the show, he reflected on what bits of wisdom he could impart. Throughout the show he said he responds to all emails. He does. There are some young men and women who ask his ten favorite books and for his musical choices. Let me add, do yourself a favor and buy both editions of Fanatic, his books on his musical tastes, there only $5 off his website. In Harrisburg, he shared how he downloaded a large file onto a teenager’s computer while visiting his parents, and over dinner the young man said, “Thank you.”
“What for?”
“The Stooges”
In Philly he was proclaiming we are the generation to change the world, which he did not blare in Harrisburg. He pumped up as he bid farewell and saluted us. The lights went on and we were off into the warm night.
So this is where I will impart my wisdom, if you’ve seen one show on this tour, there is no need to spend another chuck of cash cause you’re going to get exactly the same - performance. He is a true performance artist.
On Friday I saw Mr. Rollins again, this time alone at the World CafĂ© in Philly. I heard the same jokes, same pauses as he gets “sidetracked” and back to his stories, the same reactions, and facial expressions. There were little changes, but there is no need to go to more than one show. That being said, I am a new Henry Rollins fan and look forward to next year as he launches a longer tour which will bring into a town near you. Now back to reading his book, A Dull Roar.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

For the blaggards and bastards on St. Patrick's Day

My ma comes from Dublin. For years I was raised as an Irish Catholic with minimal historical references or interferences from my father’s side. When I’m told, you don’t sound like you’re from New York, I explain, my ma’s from Dublin and she corrected my native pronouncements - if I sounded like my father who’s from Brooklyn – I was corrected.
When I’d bring my friends over and they met ma they’d ask her about Ireland. When I was young, the questions revolved around dancing leprechauns, thick pots of gold and the elusive four leaf clover. For the record, these are the general interests that still lead some tourists to the emerald isle.
My childhood was different, I took Irish step dancing and to this day know to hold the sides of my pants, and to synch my steps in silence, kick out and in and one two three four…I was taught by Gerry Mulgahill, one of the country’ s best Irish step dancing teachers in a church basement in Kings Park. I wanted to play hurtling and Irish football. We were raised to be proud of our heritage, even getting into flights with the O’Brien’s who swore they were more Irish then we were cause their Dad was Irish. Yeah, good luck getting an Irish passport your ignorant twits, both of your parents were born here. I still have some hostility!
Looking back at pictures my cousin Colleen posted on Facebook, we appeared like thin rashers in rags, but that’s the way it was in our neighborhood, the kids cared little about the name tags and stayed out till dark playing sports on the street, fighting and building forts. If my uncles came over, they always wanted to know – not what grades I got or sports I played, but the fights I got into. “Tell us about your last fight Mick.” I’d go into detail with the last fight and share the blood and gore and hear the encouraging words, “Way to go Mick.”
I’ve been to Ireland four times in my life. One of the first was when we made an emergency landing in Cork, it was scary, seeing my Ma and my Aunt Betty whispering prayers, grabbing my hand and the stewardess’ making an announcement to keep our heads as down low as much as possible. For the record, the reason why they’d tell you to keep your heads low so they don’t fly off your spine when you make impact at couple of hundred miles an hour. Your hips are being held down, that loose head of yours can make a nice projectile.
On one trip my granda took me to the zoo, it started raining and he wrapped me under his coat, his warm body and the scent that I slept next to each night was soothing. That’s right, I slept next to my granda who’d have to get up each night and pee in a plastic bucket that he kept under the bed. A steady stream would sound like a drum roll. The last trip was when I visited my grandmother, just after high school. When I arrived at the airport, I was given a lift into the city by some airport workers who got off their shift, just because the Irish are known for being out going and pleasant, no other reason and of course they asked if I wanted to hit the pub.
“Let him see his grand,” one said and I was left at the bus depot and found the number 8.
When stepping into the house in Kimmage, I remembered the scent of burning black bricks of peat in the small fireplace in the living room, the tight quarters and to imagine this house held 8 children at one time. Grand made me a tea and toast and we caught up on the family and how happy she was that her Mick was there. Although I was happy to be there I missed my granda, and I wished he came back from the kitchen and sat down with us. We’d run off to church to say a prayer…
Lighting the candles in a darkened church, the scent of sulfur, a flame licked the glowing glass orange inside and retained my blessings…
On one of those early trips, in the small back yard, there was chicken coup, and it was there I fell off the roof and landed on a pile of boards, I remember pulling a thin board off and feeling the nail tug out of my flesh. It was there in the backyard, at night, under the Irish stars my granda taught me how to box - left from the shoulders, quick and right, that’s grand Michael. Swing your weight with your hips. His smile and the resplendent stars at night, the thin moon and cats, or were they banshees that howled? Tucked in the corner of the backyard, was where the outhouse was. Sitting on the seat early in the morning was painful. Ma told me when she was growing up they’d have to use ripped newspaper, so I was happy to have the thin wax paper like toilet paper, newspaper would be too harsh, but I guess it’s better than some leaves… even back in the seventies and eighties, an outdoor toilet was uncommon.
There wasn’t a shower, but a big tub in the kitchen that grand ma would fill with hot water so to take a bath.
I’m writing this for St. Patrick’s Day and there is so much to read about the Irish civilization. Do me a favor and read the last page of James Joyce, Abbey and learn how to describe raw emotions, watch The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara who was the Irish celebrity till U2 and before them Thin Lizzy. Try some Irish soda bread. Read about the horrors of the Irish famine which killed millions. Imagine hearing the screams of the starving children. Learn more about the conflict with Northern Ireland and thank God peace has settled on the place. Ireland has transformed itself, for awhile the Celtic tiger was growling in the world’s economy, but it lasted briefly. Unemployment is high again and on All Souls Day they’d build bonfires like they’ve done for centuries…
All of these memories are whooshing back as I’m typing this on the train. Thinking of Mick Doran who is the main character in my novel Killer Commute on Champagne Books. Mick was born in Ireland and is a former professional boxer, like my granda, those who recognized him would call him champ. Doran is my mother’s maiden name and you know where Mick comes from. Still, I’m not like Mick Doran, he is a homicide detective and almost twenty years older, besides he a hypochondriac. My granda was a saint and a health machine, walked for miles each day and kept his mind on positive thinking, he was hit by a car in Dublin, but got up and brushed himself off and waved off any assistance, he said he wanted to finish his walk and didn’t want the interruptions like an ambulance or a hospital.
God bless William Doran in heaven.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Something new in the works...book release party?

Writing a new piece for Monk Press, and for now I’m writing without a title. It’s nice to be back typing the keys. On the train and I really need to move to an open seat where I could move my elbows. I’m in the single seat which faces another single directly. Feeling constrained. Commuters line up in the aisle before we pull into the station; I’m afraid some can look over my hands and see the words. Mind your own business.
We’re having a book release party and I hope some can make it. We’re investing a lot into this event, well not a crazy amount, but enough that I’m now thinking – this may not be a great idea. I’ m not sure how many will attend – if anyone other than family. Maybe a few friends?
Note, last night Ali and I discussed and thought we may need to cancel the event, is becoming too expensive. Hope the hall agrees to pay back some of the money…

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Meeting Michael Stipe, Patty Smith is my hero, Tibet House 2011


Last Thursday I ate my dinner at the Cracker Barrel in Trevose, PA. After I finished I headed up to NYC to meet Ali and Amanda and Emma Tess at Carnegie Hall. The show began at 7:30 and I just made it to my seat as Robert Thurman walked on the stage and spoke about Tibet House, it was a benefit concert for the foundation.
Tibet House US is dedicated to preserving Tibet’s unique culture at a time when it is confronted with extinction on its own soil. By presenting Tibetan civilization and its profound wisdom, beauty, and special art of freedom to the people of the world, we hope to inspire others to join the effort to protect and save it.

Tibet House US is part of a worldwide network of Tibetan institutions committed to ensuring that the light of the Tibetan spirit never disappears from the face of this earth.
Our seats were up at the top balcony, but the acoustics in the auditorium are perfect. The ornate ceiling, stucco walls with gold trims were pristine. After a blessing for a prosperous new year by a group of monks, the performers hit the stage. The reason we attended was to see Michael Stipe, but before he sung, Patty Smith recited a haunting Rimbaud poem as her daughter played piano and her friend on the xylophone. All of the performers were incredible, from Jesse McCartney, Taj Mahal, Angelique Kidjo, The Roots, Flaming Lips, who were the most excited to be on the stage. I loved the fact Philip Glass plays and MC's the show. We're blessed to have all of these gifted artists on the same stage.

It was a good night. After the show,I had an opportunity to give Michael a copy of Killer Commute. Before I saw him, I signed the book and scribbled in frozen black ink my email address. A minute later he bolts out the stage door and headed back to the waiting car as fast as possible. Shit, he ain’t talking to a little crowd waiting. Signs a few things, CDS…some guy walks next to him and holds up a camera to get them in the shot, flash. He signed the copy of Killer Commute as he kept walking - quickly. I explained, it was his copy, and he looked up, “oh, I thought you wanted me to sign it. Thank you.” He was gone, I didn’t get the full attention, I felt like I was in a rush…my heart was racing. Hey Michael, this is my novel. I used lyrics from Mr. Richards…scribbles his name…I held it as he walked on and caught myself…no, I need to give him the book instead of holding it! Mission accomplished. Thank you.